Despite the ruthless, intimidatingly large crowd that packed the Eagles Ballroom on both nights of the sold-out Snow Show 8 in Milwaukee, it was an enjoyable experience filled with bands I never thought I’d be able to see.
On the first night, December 12, four bands performed to the jam-packed ballroom. Bastille, a British alternative rock band, was first up. This was their first performance in Wisconsin. The band mates worked the stage and at one point, lead singer Dan Smith worked the crowd as he jumped off of the stage and sang his way through the mass of fans. Their set lasted a devastating 30 minutes. They were the opening act, but as an avid Bastille fan, 30 minutes was not sufficient. Regardless, what they played in their allotted time was flawless and vocally impressive.
Next to hit the stage was the only US-based band set to perform either night of the Snow Show. Grouplove, an alternative rock group, exploded onto the stage, bringing with them loud, blaring music and intense strobe lights. From start to finish, their set was completely high energy. They tackled the crowd favorites, “Itchin’ on a Photograph,” “Tongue Tied,” and “Ways to Go.”
Alt-J, an English indie rock band, was third to play. They brought their typical chilling, goose-bump-giving harmonies. The band members were grooving and locked in together from the first note they played. They played through a reasonable amount of their repertoire saving the crowd’s favorite, a radio hit, “Breezeblocks,” for last.
Last to hit the stage was the headliner for the evening, a French alternative rock band, Phoenix. Their performance was a burst of color as lights flashed and a background of photos or colors played behind them on a giant screen. Not only was it a burst of color, but a burst of energy. I thought the bands prior were energetic, but Phoenix put them to shame. Thomas Mars, lead singer, crowd surfed to the middle of the crowd where he then stood on the hands of fans to perform and wave at the end of the show before surfing his way back to the stage.
The crowd was disappointed when it was over and herded out the doors, many ready to come back on December 13, which was night two of the event. On Friday, the show was pushed back an hour due to harsh weather conditions preventing bands from arriving to the venue on time, but it did not ruin the vibes of the crowd who were still ready and willing to push and dance their way as close to stage as they could.
First up for the evening was Swedish band NONONO. I was sure their set would be short, because they only have a handful of songs. They were borderline lackluster and played every song of theirs (again, they only have about five). They thanked the crowd and strutted off. After seeing the bands on the first night, seeing NONONO was disappointing. One positive: their new catchy radio hit “Pumping Blood” was fun to hear. But that was about it.
Next up was Foals, an English indie rock band, whose sound check most likely permanently ruined my hearing. This was how I knew their set was going to be good. The drum was louder than it should have been and the bass rattled the room so much that the floor shook and I couldn’t breathe. Foals received an award at the NME awards (a British Awards Music Show) for the “all-around best band and live act,” and that award could not have been more accurate. Their stage presence was powerful, their vocals were succinct, the instrumentals were cranked up and rhythmically, things were tight. There was not a single flaw in their performance. They hit all the songs every Foals lover could have ever hoped to hear.
Lastly came the headliner of the evening, Arctic Monkeys. Arctic Monkeys is an English indie rock band that recently released a new album, “AM.” Their performance was the best of the entire two-day concert. They rocked their usual, powerful guitar riffs and had hearts melting when they dedicated “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor” (released in 2005) to all the ladies in the crowd. They played song after song, packing in as much as they could in the short amount of time they were given. The crowd danced on the floor as the band danced across the stage. It was a great way to end the two-day, Big Snow Show 8.
Great bands perform the Big Snow Show each year, so music lovers will have to keep their ears open come late summer or early fall of next year for the bands playing at the Big Snow Show 9. I am not sure if anything will be able to top the 7 bands of this year.